Life is evident in the rhythms of change. Coming up over that last rocky hilltop took my breath away. Here it was, finally – summer. Oh, it’s not yet summer by the calendar but if you were to ask my deprived skin cells they’d all nod in agreement that the 80 degree sunbeams were evidence enough. We left winter storm warnings only 15 hours ago. The view out my window now proves winter won’t last forever.
Somehow the sun catches me off guard this time. Our extreme winter back home froze deeper than I thought. Wearing tank tops and flip-flops feels kind of awkward in March. The sudden change of southbound travel has my internal weather clock all out of sorts. I try to shake it off by rolling down the windows and cranking up the music. It’s beautiful to follow the palm trees as they stretch higher towards the sea of blue above and to count the cactus standing watch below; but it is still not quite right.
We unload into our vacation rental, and as the miles settle down into the dust of the desert I grab the “traditional” cocktail and find myself migrating to the porch chair. The sun sinks lower and its heat breaks into brilliant colors that seem to stretch from west to east. There have been so many evenings like this one: the birds serenading the sunset, the mix of hot desert sun and cool evening breeze caressing your bare feet. This moment has become an annual tradition. A tradition birthed out of connection, connection to legacy. Every evening around 5 o’clock there would be a shuffle of patio chairs along the concrete and a jingle of ice cubes in glasses. Soon the smell of bourbon would waft through air. Conversation would hum along occasionally interrupted by bouts of laughter. Here, life was regaled. Stories told. Dreams shared. Current struggles would dance with recent victories. This was family. This is legacy.
I wish you could have seen it, that patio of yesterday. It wasn’t just warm from sun burnt concrete, it was warm with love. Love without expectations. Grandma and Grandpa just clicked and their love… their love was a rare form, visible in human touch. It was deep enough to meld 6 adolescents together as if they’d been family all along. It was gentle enough for everyone within its embrace to stretch out and touch their dreams. It was true enough to flow through two generations… maybe even three. It was in the way they looked at each other, the way they held hands. She could read him across the room without saying a word and he knew her needs before she did. The way they shuffled along the walk together was harmony. Their love made her eyes sparkle and it gave his heart a song to whistle. It was a quiet love, subtle almost. But it was there – strong and steady. It connected everyone on that patio.
Stories of life now mingle in the breeze of memories. And it took one wisp of Orange Blossom fragrance for me to find the missing piece.
I miss her. I really miss her.
Every so often, at the most tender of moments, a certain bird sings a song. It triggers a fragrant bouquet of memories like Grandma’s perfume, her clean kitchen, and crisp linens. In its chorus of only a few notes a symphony of love floods back over me. This same chorus woke me as a young girl on special summer visits. I would wake to the sunshine peeking through wood blinds, the feel of pink cotton sheets and the creek of an old oak bed frame, for just outside my window sang this melody. 10 years later I would wake again on the desert to the same creek of oak wood, the same pink cotton, and the same melody of bird song. And now after grandma has gone this song still finds me on green fairways chasing white balls; it has whispered memories of love on anniversary dates; it has caught me off guard in the midst of reflection. And here it sings just beyond this new, awkward patio on this trip of unfolding change.
There is a new face this trip. She is lovely, absolutely warm and her energy is contagious. I can see why Grandpa likes her. She seems to have brought back his smile. Her companionship is life-giving and for that I am eternally grateful. Conversation amongst us settles around the subject of a white ball on a sea of green. It’s a sweet moment, tender and easy. There are chuckles and a little teasing. The banter comes smooth, just like bourbon with a twist. Watching her settle into the bend of his arm brought tears to the edge of my soul.
Things have changed.
A season has come to an end. And as the snow starts to melt, new blossoms of life emerge. I do miss the comfort of last season, it was familiar. But I like the beauty peaking up in this next chapter. I guess this is where legacy blossoms on into next generations.